A member of a racist skinhead gang has been sentenced to life in prison after confessing to his involvement in a 2012 murder carried out during a home-invasion robbery in Oregon.
Robert Paul Smith, 35, pleaded guilty Friday in Eugene, Ore., to aggravated murder, robbery, burglary and being a felon in possession of a firearm – charges stemming from January 2012 invasion robbery at the Cottage Grove, Ore., home of 48-year-old Terry Fruichantie, who was fatally shot.
Prosecutor Erik Hasselman told the Eugene Register-Guard that Smith was a member of the WAR Skins. The group is believed to be an offshoot of the White Aryan Resistance, or WAR, founded by notorious former Klan leader and neo-Nazi Tom Metzger in the mid-1980s as the skinhead movement was catching fire in the U.S. WAR was bankrupted in 1990 by a $12.5 million verdict in a lawsuit brought by a Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of the family of an Ethiopian student murdered by skinheads in Portland.
Smith was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole, part of a plea deal that took a potential death sentence off the table, the Eugene newspaper reported.
Smith and his accomplice, Kenneth Robert Lee, 47, targeted Fruichantie because they believed marijuana was being grown in the home and thought there would be cash there, the prosecutor said. But when the armed, mask-wearing robbers broke into the home, Fruichantie told them he didn’t have any money, as he and three women were caring for his 78-year-old father. Not believing him, Smith pistol-whipped Fruichantie, knocking him to the ground before fatally shooting him in front of his father.
Smith also pleaded guilty to six other first-degree robbery charges in connection with two armed holdups of a mushroom-buying business in 2011. He was sentenced to 22½ years on those convictions.
Lee, who wasn’t charged with murder, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty last October to charges related to the home-invasion robbery.